Catonsville Fire Department Welcomed Community Carolers in Years Past

There's still time to pay a visit to Santa this Saturday and Sunday at the Holiday House.

On Friday, Jan. 3, 1947, the Herald Argus and Baltimore Countian ran this photo with the following caption: “More than a hundred members of Brownie and Intermediate Girl Scout Troops of the Catonsville area gathered at the community tree and the fire-police building on the afternoon of December 24 to sing Christmas carols.

The tuneful and colorful event took place between 4 and 4:30 p.m. Singing was led by Mrs. James D. Booth of Oak Hill Road. The affair was one of the highlights of the Christmas celebration here.”

That was 55 years ago and Catonsville residents are still enjoying Christmas festivities in the heart of the village.

This year marked the 19th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony the Saturday after Thanksgiving next door to the Catonsville Fire Department, built in 1928. At the first ceremony a live tree was planted for decorating.

As usual, it took place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving next door to the Catonsville Fire Department. The CFD was built in 1928 on the site of the former Railroad Hotel.


In the years before that tradition, a story in the Herald Argus in November 1948 mentioned that firemen had installed light brackets from Delrey to Sanford streets, which were decorated with wreaths and small Christmas trees affixed to the poles.

The retail merchants spent $800 on the decorations, which the article notes with community pride, made Catonsville “the outstanding Christmas village in Maryland.”


A 1956 newspaper account describes an elaborate Christmas garden at the fire department as looking “like a miniature 25-ring circus, all color and animation, with hundreds of details.”


It appears that the tradition of a community tree began in 1968.

The Dec. 5, 1968, Catonsville Times and Herald Argus Baltimore Countian reported that a community Christmas tree was “brought from the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ross Ressler, Jr., of 1207 Biddle Place.

The tree was cut and erected through the efforts of Leo Fitzsimmons of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company.”

Nelson Knode of the Music Centre invited singers and instrumentalists to perform each weeknight. Bill’s Music House donated tapes of carols with bells, carillons and chimes to welcome shoppers to the village. It is apparent that music has long been a Catonsville tradition, even before our designation as “Music City, Maryland.”

Visit with Santa

Procrastinators, take note. There is still time to drop off a letter to Santa at the Holiday House or visit with Old St. Nick himself. He will be available this Saturday, Dec. 22, from 2-4 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 23, from 3-5 p.m.

Thanks go to Bryce Rumbles, librarian at the Catonsville Branch, and Lisa Vicari, Catonsville Room volunteer and board member, Friends of the Catonsville Library, for their research assistance. Anyone interested in ordering digital reprints of any of the historical images featured in this series, should contact Bryce Rumbles at brumbles@bcpl.net.

Images shown in this column are housed in the Catonsville Room’s extensive collection of documents, photographs, news articles and family histories about the area. Digitized versions for many are available to view and download through the BCPL Legacy Web site. The Catonsville Room is located on the lower level of the Catonsville Library and is open on Thursdays from 2 to 5 p.m., and on the first Wednesday of each month from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Appointments accepted for in-depth research.


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